Fix Elevated applications not having access to mapped drives

Fix Elevated applications not having access to mapped drives

One of the side effects of UAC is the inability to access the mapped (over net use) network drives from the applications running in privileged mode (Run As Administrator). This means that when you run the command prompt or an application (like SpecWin) with elevated privileges, they won’t display the disk letters of the mounted network shares.

A quick way to show what this looks like. Open command prompt, as a regular user, not an administrator and run/enter:

net use

Your screen should look something like this:

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And if you change directories and looked at what’s there, it would look something like this

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If you run the command prompt ‘As Administrator’ the prompt will look something like this:

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If you try and change drives you will get something like this:

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This behavior of the system can lead to some inconveniences when trying to run apps elevated often.

Why does it happen? This peculiarity is connected with UAC mechanism for a user with the local administrator privileges. The matter is that when this user signs in, two access tokens are created: the first token provides access without the administrator privileges (the filtered access token, with which most apps are run) and the second is the administrator token with full privileges in the system (all apps approved elevated in UAC are run using it).

When connecting shared network folders, they are associated with the current session for the current process access token and are not available with another token.

There is a solution. To implement it, you have to make some changes to the registry:

Open the registry editor (regedit.exe)

Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System

Create a new parameter (DWORD type) with the name EnableLinkedConnections and the value 1

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Restart your computer

After the computer has been restarted, make sure that you have access to the network drives from the apps run with the administrator privileges.

How it works. After you enable EnableLinkedConnections parameter of the registry, LanmanWorkstation and LSA will check if there is the second access token associated to the session of the current user. If this token is found, the list of the mounted network drives will be copied from one token to another. Thus, the network drives mounted elevated will be seen in the standard mode, and vice versa.

Ref:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3035277/mapped-drives-are-not-available-from-an-elevated-prompt-when-uac-is-configured-to-prompt-for-credentials-in-windows

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee844140(v=ws.10).aspx

https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/49e551df-8e18-45fa-b4bf-923b5a317337/windows-8-issue-with-drive-mapping-and-uac-enabled-enablelinkedconnections?forum=w81previtpro

Fix "The trust relationship between this computer and the primary domain failed" error

This is something that happens very often in large organizations with remotely connected sites (whether via MPLS nodes, connected VPNs or remote VPN users).

If you’ve spent any time in the desktop support arena you’ve likely had this error/issue dozens of times.
Here are some surefire ways to fix this fairly quickly.

MANY, many sites will tell you to remove the PC from the domain, delete the computer account and then re-join the computer. This does work – SOMETIMES and can bring on even more problems when it fails.

A simpler solution, that actually works, is to use PowerShell to resolve the issue.
You will need to log into the computer as a local administrator (or possibly you can use the cached domain admin credentials if that’s still an option)

Here are the commands to use in order of preference.

Depending on what version of Windows you are on and how up to date it is you should first download the latest Windows Management Framework (WMF). this contains the latest versions of PowerShell, DSC, WMI, and WinRM for downlevel versions of Windows and Windows Server. Here’s that link

1st try this one from an Admin Powershell:

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Test-ComputerSecureChannel -Repair -Credential (get-credential)

After that completes restart computer and try domain login.

If that doesn’t work try this one:

Reset-ComputerMachinePassword -Server <ClosestDomainControllerNameHere> -Credential <DOMAIN\domain.admin>

Make sure to specifiy you DC and your domain user name, you’ll be prompted for you password.
The script will run and you’ll be back to the Powershell prompt.
Then just restart machine and try domain login.

An older method you can also try the NETDOM way ( most useful on some non upto date Win7 machines).
You’ll likely have to download the Microsoft Remote Server Admin Tools from here.  Install and then

use the following from an elevated cmd prompt:
netdom.exe resetpwd /s:dc-hostname.domain /ud:domainadminusername /pd:* (enter the domain admin password when prompted)

Hope this helps some.

Using PowerShell to Manage Windows Updates

Using PowerShell to Manage Windows Updates:  PSWindowsUpdate

Often we have to update computers that have not – for whatever reason been updated in a long time. AND we often have to create new deploy images using sysprep. What usually happens is that Windows update will hang at ‘checking for updates’ for a very long time and either error out or never complete. A secret I found to deploying Windows Updates when this happens or from within Audit Mode is an excellent PowerShell module created by Michal Gajda. This module, aptly called PSWindowsUpdate, allows managing Windows Update on any computer running PowerShell 2.0 or higher. This module even enables Windows admins to check for and install updates on remote PCs and servers. PSWindowsUpdate is particularly handy for installing updates on Server Core machines that have no GUI, or in instances such as Sysprep’s Audit Mode where the Windows Update GUI doesn’t work.

· Get started by downloading the latest version of PSWindowsUpdate.zip.

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· Once downloaded, extract the contents of the zip file to C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules\.

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Extracting files from PSWindowsUpdate.zip.

· Click Continue if a UAC prompt appears.

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· When the files have been extracted into the PowerShell Modules folder, open an elevated PowerShell prompt. Change PowerShell’s Execution Policy to RemoteSigned. The RemoteSigned Execution Policy allows PowerShell scripts downloaded from the Internet to run on a PC as long as they are signed by a trusted publisher.

· Type Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned and press Enter. When prompted, confirm the change by pressing Y and then Enter.

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Changing PowerShell’s execution policy

This completes the one-time configuration of the module! Now it’s time to put PSWindowsUpdate to use!

· If running PowerShell v2.0, type Import-Module PSWindowsUpdate and hit Enter. This isn’t necessary in PowerShell v3 and higher, but it doesn’t hurt anything either. This step simply guarantees that the modules cmdlets will be available to the PowerShell v2.0 session.

· Display a list of all the module’s available cmdlets by typing Get-Command –module PSWindowsUpdate and hitting Enter.

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Using Get-Command -module PSWindowsUpdate.

· Possibly the most important function for getting and installing updates is Get-WUInstall. Help for each cmdlet is available, so to see full help for Get-WUInstall type Help Get-WUInstall –full and press Enter.

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Looking at help for Get-WUInstall.

When applying updates, I prefer connecting to the Microsoft Update servers. Using these instead of the standard Windows Update servers allows installing updates to Office and other Microsoft products in addition to the normal Windows updates. Unfortunately, trying to connect to the Microsoft Update servers using the PSWindowsUpdate module from a fresh Windows installation will produce an error, as shown below.

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· The reason for this error is because Windows is registered to use only the standard Windows Update servers by default. To use the Microsoft Update servers, the Microsoft Update Service must be registered on the computer. In the GUI, this is done by selecting the checkbox for Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows from the Control Panel – Windows Update – Change Settings applet.

· In the PSWindowsUpdate module, the same process is completed by using the Add-WUServiceManager cmdlet with the ServiceID for the Microsoft Update service specified. Type Add-WUServiceManager -ServiceID 7971f918-a847-4430-9279-4a52d1efe18d and press Enter. When prompted, confirm registering the service by typing Y and pressing Enter one more time.

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Registering the Microsoft Update servers.

· List available updates from the Microsoft Update servers by typing Get-WUInstall –MicrosoftUpdate –ListOnly and pressing Enter. After a few moments, the system will return a list of the available updates for the current machine. No error this time!

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· The same results are produced by typing Get-WUList –MicrosoftUpdate and pressing Enter.

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· Type Get-WUInstall –MicrosoftUpdate and press Enter to go through the available updates, confirming installation of each one manually.

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PSWindowsUpdate and Parameter Support

Another awesome feature of the PSWindowsUpdate module is its support of parameters. For example, using the –AcceptAlland the –AutoReboot parameters with the Get-WUInstall cmdlet changes the manual process into an automated one. Type Get-WUInstall –MicrosoftUpdate –AcceptAll –AutoReboot and press Enter. The system will download and install all available updates and then automatically reboot if any of the updates require a reboot.

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Retrieving updates and installing automatically.

Don’t want a particular update to be installed? No problem! Use Hide-WUUpdate. Selection parameters such as –Title or –KBArticleID narrow in and hide specific updates. Feel free to use wildcards with these parameters. As an example, type Hide-WUUpdate –Title “Bing*” –KBArticleID “KB2673774” –MicrosoftUpdate –Confirm:$false and press Enter to hide the Bing Bar 7.3 update.

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Hiding an unwanted update.

Notice that I used the –Confirm parameter, along with the $false switch, to automatically confirm hiding the selected update. In the future the update won’t appear when listing available updates.

Did you make a mistake and hide the wrong update? No problem! Hide-WUUpdate can unhide an update by using the –HideStatus parameter with the $false switch. To unhide the update hidden earlier, type Hide-WUUpdate –Title “Bing*” –KBArticleID “KB2673774” –MicrosoftUpdate –HideStatus:$false –Confirm:$false then press Enter. As before, I used the –Confirm:$false parameter to keep everything streamlined.

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Unhiding a previously hidden update.

Once all the updates are complete make sure to open PowerShell (as Administrator) and set the Execution Policy back to ‘restricted’:

Type Set-ExecutionPolicy Restricted and press Enter. Then exit

My drumbeat. Backup with Images folks!

Once again I’ve had the frustration of dealing with failed hardware. The system was highly customized with special settings and configurations to enable unique line of business applications and data, plus the ‘regular’ business applications such as MS Office (with custom CRM databases) multiple email accounts and other applications installed after the system was first ‘fired up’. It was an HDD drive failure on a two month old HP laptop.

HP’s solution is to ‘just send the whole thing back and we’ll put the new HDD in with the ‘factory image’. A ‘factory image’ is what the new Laptop ships with; as if you just bought it. None of my installed applications, settings or files would/will be there. Meaning I’d have to finish the initial setup, update the Operating System to a Windows 8 Pro version (the ship version was Home Premium), install MS Office 2013 Pro (again from the MS Store – it didn’t come with system), install all the other business applications required for this user – 4+ separate ones each requiring special configurations to work with Windows 8, AND then get all the files and settings (like email accounts etc.) configured. Oh and of course there would be about a day and half worth of Windows and Application Updates and Patches to apply. Then hope that it all works as it did.

Had this system been IMAGED, I would have been able to remove the dying/dead drive, run down to the local PC store (Fry’s) and buy a replacement drive, install a clean/new one and restore that image to the new drive. The system would then be as it was when the image was created, apps, files, settings and all. Only time would have been the physical HDD removal and replacement and the time it takes for the image restore – that total time would probably have been only one day more or less.

I propose this to all of my clients. But for some reason they often don’t see the value till it’s too late. No matter my insistence. It is usually a, ‘yea, we’ll do that soon..just not now….. Sometimes it’s the capital cost (actually less than $200.00) or time (really very little – to install and setup). But in the end I guarantee that it will always cost more if they are out of business.

However in this case there was no image backup. The system was as a point where it was un-repairable via HP or MS Windows recovery tools and would not boot. I had to remove the HDD, place it in one of my HDD docks and use advanced disk recovery (forensic) tools just to get access to the data. I was then able to copy off nearly all the data to another drive. Note that I recovered data NOT the working system. So all the documents and files this person had are still accessible. But otherwise quite useless with out the applications and Operating system to use them.

I constantly hear the commercials for the many online backup services and their BS promises on the TV and radio. My clients do too. And they like most people do NOT understand that there is a WORLD of difference between a file backup and a full system backup that will enable complete system recovery; Operating System, Applications, Settings and all. It’s good to use some of these services to backup your documents and files (I do and recommend some – see my previous articles on cloud storage). But you must understand that if you SYSTEM fails you need some kind of system recovery, not just files.

I cannot state it emphatically or enough, PLEASE USE SOME KIND OF DISK IMAGING SOFTWARE TO CREATE YOUR BACKUPS!!

I have written many, many times about this. You can read here and here.

My go to imaging software is Acronis True Image. The cost is nominal (right now only $79.00 U.S. for the Home Premium version that includes ‘Universal Restore’. You can check out there deals here. Add to that the low cost of External USB HDDs – less than $100.00 U.S. in most cases, and you can assure that you will NOT be out of business longer than a day or two at most. VS having a to wait for a manufacturer to send out replacement part( s) , re-install and configure everything and HOPE it all works as it did.

Well there you go just another rant after spending a few whole days working my tail off to help one of my clients. Sigh..

Windows 8.1 news

If you are buying a new PC or laptop and you’ve been holding off because of the new Metro interface you might be in luck.

It looks like Microsoft is pulling a ‘New Coke’ here and admitting that the ‘Metro’ desktop and lack of ‘Start’ button was a VERY BAD MOVE. Especially for those in the business community.

I got this deal earlier this year and it’s still a great one. For those looking for a powerful Windows PC laptop that could easily replace an older high end workstation this is a pretty good choice.
I wrote an article about my original selection, purchasing and finally, my adventures in ‘downgrading’ it to Widows 7 Pro/Enterprise here. Many of the things I do with my system cannot be done efficiently, or at all, from the silly ‘Metro’ interface. And other applications simply wouldn’t run properly.

With Windows 8.1 (which it will release mid to late summer, it is said that Microsoft is going to bring back the traditional ‘Boot to Desktop’ feature along with the much missed ‘Start Button’. It looks like the start button will most likely look like the ‘Windows Charm’ in Windows 8.1 but it hopefully will be there. You can read about that here and here.

IF you are stuck with Window 8, don’t want to go through the hassle of downgrading it, and can’t wait for Microsoft to ‘fix it’, there is a fantastic solution to bring back the old Window 7 interface. It’s called Start 8 by Stardock Software It’s a great app and only costs $4.99 USD. It’s the first thing I install on clients Windows 8 machines when they tell me they can’t handle the Windows 8 Metro interface.

Peace, and be safe.

Install/Downgrade to Windows 7 from Windows 8 – HP laptop adventures

I’ve been without a good working portable/laptop computer for some time (had a couple liberated and another fail) and decided the time was nigh to purchase a very good one for my needs.

I did loads of research on specs and ratings etc. of course, that’s part of what I’ve been doing for a few decades. So I might have a pretty good idea of what I want and need.
For me I am primarily concerned with a system that can match or exceed the computing abilities of my workstation. That means a fast 64bit multi-core processor with Hyper Virtualization Technology built in – an i7, loads of fast RAM, a large fast HDD, dedicated video card and ample ports for devices and connections.

I found some good Dell’s, Asus’, and HPs. I am a huge fan of Amazon, New Egg and Costco and looked extensively on their sites too. I finally settled on an HP that Costco had for sale with bang up specs and a great price. In fact the price was way better than I could get configuring the device on HPs site or a comparable one on Dell’s site.

This, and most new systems; desktops and laptops now come with Windows 8 pre-installed. Windows 8 is a nice operating system and brings some nice ‘under the hood’ improvements in security and performance. AND it’s User Interface (UI) is very easy to navigate for those not that familiar with a Windows Operating system. All the ‘simple things’ – web, email, social media, games etc., are quickly accessed and controlled on the Metro ‘front page’. For those that are very familiar with older versions however it will definitely take some getting used to.

HOWEVER, I’m an IT guy. I use dozens of applications on a regular basis, usually daily. AND there are many network/system management applications that will not run on Windows 8 (yet, or ever). So I needed to be sure that whatever hardware I got that I would be able to downgrade/install Windows 7 Enterprise.

I made several calls to HP over the past couple months speaking with sales and tech people alike. I was finally assured by a level III tech manager that I would be able to install Windows 7 onto my machine with out ‘much’ difficulty. That the Windows 8 (and maybe some of the Windows 7 drivers from the just previous models) would/should work.

So I broke down and ordered a new laptop over a month ago. WELL… I finally got it. It had to be made in China exported to the U.S.A., clear customs in Alaska and finally make it to me.

That’s when things got even more fun. <sarcasm>

You see, most newer systems are now shipping with UEFI type of ‘bios’. UEFI allows for some great flexibility in hardware and configuration that wasn’t possible with the old style of BIOS. Here’s Microsoft’s take on it:

In addition to better interoperability, UEFI firmware provides several technical advantages:

  • Compatibility with operating systems that support only BIOS
  • Ability to boot from large disks
  • CPU-independent architecture
  • CPU-independent drivers
  • Flexible pre-OS environment
  • Modular design

Two of the most notable Windows features for UEFI systems are the following:

  • Multicast deployment, which enables large scale network-based image deployment in manufacturing and enterprise settings.
  • Fast boot and resume from hibernation, which improves user experience.

The rich UEFI interface provides ample room for innovation in the development of operating system features. Along with the other members of the Unified EFI Forum, Microsoft is investigating the following:

  • Rootkit prevention (theoretically)
  • Network authentication at the ‘BIOS/FIRMWARE’ level

But many Operating systems will not work – at all with this firmware. AND.. This also allows the manufacture to possibly ‘secure’ – read LOCK, the ability to install ANY drivers or Operating Systems that are not ‘properly signed’ or specifically ‘allowed’ by said manufacturer. Sounds great for ‘security’ but that fails when you wish to work on/configure your own hardware! [Wow sounds like an Apple product huh!] Thank goodness I was able to enter the System Setup/Bios (unlock/disable secure mode) and enable ‘legacy bios support. But then came some other issues…

HP is now throwing the PC enthusiasts under the bus. Computerworld  has said that they have again changed their support for ‘downgrading’ Operating System – specifically Window 8 down to Windows 7. What a bunch of crap! Users in the past always could downgrade, assuming they had the appropriate licenses — Windows 8 Pro — and media for Windows 7 Professional or Vista Business. The question was whether their machines would work after a downgrade. “The company retained its warning that if customers downgraded to Windows 7 and reached out to HP for support, they may have to restore the original Windows 8 OS to get help from the company.” Oh well, I’ve got a solution for that I’ll get to later.
Well I’ve already got my system so I might as well give it a go!

My solution was two fold. First I removed the original HDD before I even powered up the laptop and just put it aside in case I had to send the whole thing back as it was when I received it. I could just reset the BIOS to default, install my original Hard Disk and bam, just like new. Yes I know most wouldn’t go through this much trouble, and that is OK. You can just skip this part and wipe the drive that came with the system and move on from there. But me, I’m a tad extra careful and conservative and always make sure I have a complete ‘escape’ plan. I purchased a brand new Hard Disk Drive. I Picked up a 1 terabyte (1TB) 7200RPM HGST/Western Digital drive from Fry’s for just under $100. Being a Western Digital I know that the HP HDD drivers should work with it. And this drive was faster than what came stock – 7200 RPM vs. 5400RPM!

Second part of my plan was the actual installation of Window 7 (Enterprise in my case) to the laptop.

Some pre-requisites: Make sure you have a Windows 7-64 bit WITH SP1 install DVD. You can only use a 64 bit version of Windows AND it must have SP1 already incorporated (sometimes called ‘slipstreamed’) or you will not be able to install this on UEFI hardware. Also go to the manufacture’s web site and download ALL the Windows 8 64bit drivers for you model of system (for me it was HPs DV6t-7200) AND see if you can find the Windows 7 64 bit drivers for the model ‘just preceding’ the Windows 8 model you have – for me that was the DV6t-7000. After you’ve downloaded all the drivers extract each one to its own folder. If you use 7-zip (which you already should be) you can just right-click on the drivers self-extracting  ‘.exe’ file and then choose 7-Zip option to ‘Extract to “\drivername” folder\’ . Then copy all these to a DVD or USB drive you’ll need them once you get Windows booted to the point that you are booted to the desktop. Probably the most important ones are the Network Adapter drivers. You will certainly need to get online quickly to ‘Activate’ your Windows installation, Update you Windows installation and hopefully update your drivers automatically.

So now the semi easy part.

Boot into you bios/setup – usually it’s the ‘Esc’ key and then enter ‘Setup’ or System Setup. On some machines it might be F1, F2 or the like. But you need to get to the BIOS/Firmware options. You may even be prompted to enter a password! Thankfully as of now most manufacturers actually present that password – usually a number, right on the screen; enter it and then you will be in.

In the setup options use the arrow keys and enter to navigate (as described on the help window at the bottom of the screens.) and make sure you do NOT have ‘Secure Boot’ enabled. Usually you can use the  arrow keys to select this option and then once high-lighted press either F6, F5 or + or – to change the value. It must not be Enabled or you can not install Windows 7.

Then you have to to change Boot mode to LAGACY in BIOS. (Sometimes it is Legacy mode:Enabled). And in the Legacy section of the bios boot order make sure that the 1st boot device is UEFI DVD drive. Then Save Changes and exit.

The system will reboot. And hopefully if you’ve enabled legacy boot mode, made sure that the 1st boot device is UEFI DVD drive (And of course put your Windows 7 64SP1 installation DVD in the drive!), you should be able to install Windows 7!

Yay!! Then comes another fun part. After Windows is installed you will surely have to install a whole load for drivers. Open Device Manager (see all the yellow exclamation marks!), right-click on the devices and choose update driver. Then put in your DVD with all your drivers you made earlier and start finding the updated drivers.

OK, so that is a short version of an even longer winded version I originally had written about this project. I’ll be adding more articles as I can. Some will be how to dual boot Window 7 and Windows 8 – on separate partitions, how to decide I you can/should upgrade to Windows 8 and how to properly do it. I’ll also, from time to time put up more tips on navigating through Windows 8.

Hope this helps some. Peace out.

Update 05/09/2013: Costco is again offering this laptop I updated the link above or you can go here. And if you’re looking for a good HDD here is one.

Security Update release for Java

Looks like Oracle has quickly released a patch to the serious Java security whole. But it also looks like they ‘poorly packaged’ it. So it may not install correctly on all Operating Systems.
First, verify you have the latest version of Java installed; go here.

If not, then get the latest version here.

The Linux and OS X versions seem to install without error. But…
For Windows users you may get an error “Error 1714. The older version of Java cannot be removed…”
This can be fixed by first ‘trying’ to uninstall all the Java applications you find.

Go to Control Panel>Programs and Features>Java.. then pressing uninstall for each Java application listed.

If that fails (and it has for me on two Windows systems) Grab Microsoft’s Uninstall Utility here, run it and choose ‘having problems uninstalling..’ and let it do it’s thing. You’ll be presented with a window showing what applications you wish to remove; choose Java 7 or what ever was giving the error.
Then after finished again try to install the latest Java again (the one you downloaded previously. (source)

Be safe out here. Peace

Fix Virtual Box Expanding Files disk; stuck at 99%

Just wanted to add some good information on using Virtual Box to install Windows 7 or Windows 8 (see my post here about installing Windows 8 into a virtual machine using Virtual Box.) Or any other OS for that matter. For more information about using Virtualization check out this post.

OK so the fix for the issue.

While installing Windows 8 (or 7) or other Operating System you may run into the issue where you are booting from a virtual or real CD/DVD and during the installation process it just ‘hangs’ at the ‘Expanding files…’ part of the install at the beginning. It will usually get to somewhere around 98%-99% and just hang there. Very aggravating. The solution is really simple!

Shut down the machine. Then On the settings tab, go to storage and then under SATA Controller you’ll see you virtual hard drive. Remove that using the button remove attachment. Then on the IDE Controller there is a small button “Add Hard drive” click that and locate you virtual hard drive you created earlier.

By doing this your hard drive will come under the IDE Controller. This fix worked for me on a Windows 8 and Windows 7 installation, I kept getting stuck on expanding files but this worked. No fuss no muss and all installed and worked well and very fast!

I hope this helps some.

Flash update kills Firefox causing hanging and crashing

Starting with the latest Adobe Flash version, some browsers, particularly Firefox, will hang or crash.

After the last Adobe Flash update my Firefox Browser became completely unusable. Chrome and Internet Explorer (IE) still worked but they too were markedly slower.

I am a huge fan of Firefox and use it as my primary browser because it enables me to use a plethora of extensions that greatly increase my productivity and the usefulness of the pages and sites I visit. [I’ll list my plug-ins at the end]

To get Firefox to even work at all I had to started it in Safe Mode –
in the ‘Run’ dialog type “Firefox -safe-mode” (minus quotes) – Then choose to continue in safe mode. Then go to ‘Tools>Add-ons>Plug-ins and then disable Shockwave Flash. That would then allow Firefox to work but obviously that is not a solution.  Without Flash you can hardly view some websites and of course could not watch most videos or multi-media files.

So I set off on a solution like an angry rhino.

I tried uninstalling Adobe Flash (using Windows Uninstall AND Adobe’s own ‘Flash Removal Tool) and re-installing it several times; that didn’t work.
You can get the official Adobe Flash ‘uninstaller’ here. [download/save and then ‘run as administrator’ to use it.]

For all of Adobe’s Flash Player downloads (the FULL Offline installers) you can go here
Make sure you download all the players you will need – if on Windows download the one for Internet Explorer AND the ‘Plugin-based browsers’ versions.

I tried using older versions of Firefox; that didn’t work.
Re-installed the latest version of Firefox, with Flash Player 11.3.300.257,
I tried the latest Beta/Developer versions of Firefox ; that didn’t work.
I tried reverting to older versions of Flash; that too didn’t work.

I finally found the reason for this behavior AND a solution after MUCH searching and LOADS of aggravation.

According to Adobe, “Starting with Flash Player 11.3, a protected mode was added as a new security enhancement for Firefox 4.0 and greater on Windows Vista and higher.  This security enhancement is designed to limit the impact of attacks launched from malicious Flash content (SWF files).”

They are trying to ‘sandbox’ Flash files to limit their susceptibility to being used as vectors for more serious virus/Trojan attacks.
Problem is I believe their developers FAILED. While the idea of sandboxing is sound (Chrome and the latest IE browsers use it extensively) this implementation is obviously poorly written and implemented in Flash for Firefox.
You would think that Adobe, with it’s truckloads of cash, could hire decent security coders and engineers and then thoroughly test their software. But judging by that fact that Adobe’s products have been the primary vector for serious security wholes over the last 7 years I guess not. But I digress.

Ok so now to the solution
To disable this newer ‘protected mode’:
add the following line to your ‘mms.cfg’ file located in:

On Windows 32bit: C:\windows\system32\macromed\flash
Or
On Windows 64bit: C:\windows\syswow64\macromed\flash

“ProtectedMode = 0”  (without the quotes)

If the mms.cfg file does not exist, create one using any standard text editor (e.g.. notepad).

Make sure if you create the file that the file ‘extension – is NOT a .txt but is the .cfg.
If you don’t see or know how to see the file name extensions you can read how to do that here. Depending on your operating system, you might need to first create and or save the mms.cfg file to a writable location (such as your documents or desktop folder) and then copy the file into the destination folder using Windows Explorer.

Here is a link to a zipped mms.cfg file version with Protected Mode disabled (directly from Adobe).

Download, unzip the file and copy it to the needed location.
One note:
I did not find the mms.cfg file in my “C:\windows\system32\macromed\flash” so I copied that file to there.

I did however also find an mms.cfg file in my “C:\windows\syswow64\macromed\flash” directory.

There I simply opened the mms.cfg file (with notepad) and just added the line ProtectedMode = 0

below the last line there.

Then I started Firefox normally. Went to Tools>Add-Ons>Plugins and made sure Shockwave Flash was ‘Enabled’

Now all is working very well. And since I’m using version 14 (beta) of Firefox things are even faster.

That ends two days of aggravation.
I hope that helps some of you.

For those that care here are the Firefox Extensions/Add-ons I use:

Adblock Plus
http://adblockplus.org/en/

After the Deadline
http://atdfirefox.wordpress.com/

Better Gmail 2
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/better-gmail-2/?src=userprofile

Video Download Helper
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/video-downloadhelper/

Downloads Context Menu
http://www.bm-productions.tk/

https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/downloads/file/128500/downloads_context_menu-1.5-fx-windows.xpi

Ghostery
http://www.ghostery.com/

Google Redesigned
http://www.globexdesigns.com/#!products/gr
https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/downloads/latest/8434/addon-8434-latest.xpi?src=addondetail

FireFTP
http://fireftp.mozdev.org/

IE Tab V2
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ie-tab-2-ff-36/

PDF Download
http://www.pdfdownload.org/

Redirect Remover
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/downloads/latest/537/addon-537-latest.xpi

RightToClick
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/righttoclick/

Social Fixer for Facebook
http://socialfixer.com/

Stop Autoplay
http://neticat.ath.cx/forum/index.php

TinEye Reverse Image Search
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tineye-reverse-image-search/

Vacuum Places Improved
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/vacuum-places-improved/?src=api

Greasemonkey
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/greasemonkey/

Greasemonkey Scripts:
Search here http://userscripts.org/
Google Maps Zoom
http://jeffpalm.com/gzoom/

YouTube Enhancer
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/33042

Re-Installing Windows 7 if you don’t have original installation media.

Many people who purchased a computer with Windows 7 installed have found that nearly every manufacturer no longer provides you with the Operating System Media (DVDs). You will only be provided with a ‘restore to factory settings option’. Which will only work if the system ‘restore’ partition has not also been corrupted. And if like a recent case I had (you can read that here)you have ‘dual booted’ or otherwise changed your partitions configurations you may not be able to get to the ‘Factory Restore’ option. And if, when you purchased your system you didn’t immediately create the ‘restore media/DVD’s disc(s) you may be hosed if you have to re-install your your Windows 7 Operating system because it died, became corrupted or was otherwise compromised.
Well fear not!
As long as you have your installation Key – contained on your COA (Certificate of Authenticity) you can download and re-install your system! COA is that sicker put on by the manufacturer somewhere on your system

If you cant read it or it has been rubbed off, you can also use one of these tools to find out your installation Keys. [You must use your legally obtained key on the same hardware by the way, or you are breaking the law!]

LicenseCrawler (Excellent tool by Martin Klinzmann!)
Download here

More information

Or you can try Aporah KeyFinder:

Or Majic JellyBean (I’ve used this one many times too)

[note – these applications will be flagged by 90+% of all virus scanners as a ‘key finder/logger’ IT IS A KEY FINDER OBVIOUSLY. So often you must disable you AV protection for the brief moment you download and use this. Get your key information. then Copy the information to paper and TURN YOUR AV SOFTWARE BACK ON!]

Windows 7 comes in various editions like Ultimate, Professional, Home Premium, Home Basic and Starter. Now there might be many cases when you would like to choose the edition during setup. But in reality they are pretty much the same except for one configuration file!

Here are the individual downloads:

Windows 7 Home Premium x86 SP1 (bootable) download

Windows 7 Home Premium x64 SP1 (bootable) download

Windows 7 Professional x86 SP1 (bootable) download

Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1 (bootable) download

Windows 7 Ultimate x86 SP1 (bootable) download

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1 (bootable) download

BUT I recommend downloading the ‘Ultimate version’ (either 64bit or x86) and then deleting the configuration file that ‘tells’ the installation program which version it is. This way you will have ALL options available and then should be able to use YOUR LEGITIMATE installation Key.
I also recommend that you make a bootable USB installation. It will make things much quicker and easier in the long run. If you have multiple Windows 7 Systems (netbooks especially, as most don’t have DVD drives etc.) you can use the single USB with your valid installation keys on every one. [Again you must have valid/legal keys for each installation.]

Simplest way to make you installation ‘version free’ is to delete the file ‘ei.cfg’ from the sources directory of the installation media. Doing this step is what makes the USB memory stick allow you to install any version of Windows 7 as it no longer has a default version configured.

I wrote about the simplest way(s) to do that (create Bootable USB) using Microsoft’s USB tool here. You can run “del F:\sources\ei.cfg” (replace ‘F’ with whatever drive you’re USB is) from the command prompt and you Windows 7 Bootable USB memory stick is ready to go.

You can now either boot from the USB memory stick or just run setup.exe from the drive to start the install process. Either way you will now prompted for the version of Windows 7 you want to install!

If you are going to burn the ISO directly to DVD then you can can also use a free tool "ei.cfg Removal Utility" to delete "ei.cfg" file so that you can choose the desired version at the time of installation.

OR you can use another free tool "Windows 7 ISO Image Edition Switcher" to modify "ei.cfg" file so that you can convert a specific Windows 7 edition setup ISO file (e.g. Windows 7 Ultimate) to another one (e.g. Windows 7 Professional).

I hope this helps for those who asked.